Jan 22

Day 9 — March 25 — Guam — Our Own Tour

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 12:01 AM

By

Lieutenant Leroy Fadem recently revisited sites in the Pacific where he saw action in the Navy during the tumultuous years of the War in the Pacific over 70 years ago. This is a journal of that recent trip as kept by his son, Steven Fadem, who accompanied Lt. Fadem on that journey of rediscovery.

I awoke in the dark, the victim of a telemarketing call at 4:47am from, ironically, an alleged veteran’s association in the States. I could not fall back asleep and so decided watch the dawn’s blue-gray fingers creep across the horizon. As the sky lightened I saw the waves breaking across the reef several hundred yards out and watched a group of ten white boats paddling in formation by what I assume was a Navy group out on maneuvers. The grays slowly turned to gorgeous shades of blue and then pink as the sun started to lighten the darkness. This trip has been about that illumination.

Having concluded that serendipity is at the center of what we experience in life, we really made it work for us today. When we checked into Guam a few days ago, our friends Warren and Chuck were talking to the concierge about hiring a guide for our last day here and they invited us to join them. They also asked DeeAnne and Rowland, who befriended us way-back-when in the Honolulu United lounge. They wanted to know all of Dad’s Navy story and we bonded from that day forward.

It turned out the hotel could not supply a guide but sent Warren and Chuck “around the corner” to a bookstore to buy a Fodor’s guide and rent a car. They discovered through experience that the short walk was several miles up a steep hill and enroute they flagged down a cab whose driver Ed is a guide so at 9 this morning we all met and piled into Ed’s van for a day of adventure. We told Ed we wanted to see the historic sites with a focus on WWII. Dad’s role in 1944, as we heard several days before, was as the Gunnery Officer on the Stevens, which arrived the day before the 21 July invasion and “continued her fire support role of delivering harassing, interdiction, and call fire in support of the American troops and Marines ashore” until she left on 26 July.

This was not a by-the-guidebook tour.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Puntan Dos Amntes-Two Lovers Point chain-link fence (Courtesy of the Author)

First Ed took us to Puntan Dos Amantes- Two Lovers Point, where legend has it the daughter of a wealthy Spanish aristocrat, who was himself married to the daughter of a Chamorro chief, rebelled at the idea of an arranged marriage to an arrogant Spanish captain. She ran off to this site and fell in love with a poor but handsome Chamorro man she found walking the beach. She returned home but when the father insisted his daughter marry the captain she ran off to this location where she and the Chamorro man looked each other in the eyes, kissed passionately, tied their hair into braids and jumped to their death from a high cliff. The site has become a popular place for young couples, especially from Japan, to come to get married. The chain-link fences throughout the monument have bright foam hearts with lovers’ names written on them connected to locks affixed to the fence, reminiscent of the locks on the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine in Paris. It makes the park, with beautiful views of the harbor to the south and the rocky shore to the north, a wild mix of neon colors

There was a beautiful brass statue of the lovers that was destroyed in 2002 by a typhoon. A couple who courted at the Point rescued the statue from scrap, had it restored and placed back at the site in 2015 on their second wedding anniversary.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Brass statue (Courtesy of the Author)

We drove off to briefly revisit the overlook with the fabulous views of the 1944 invasion locations which we visited the other day with the Armenian Park Ranger and also went by the beach where the landings occurred supported by fire from the Stevens.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Overlook (Courtesy of the Author)

Then on to one of the highlights- the small but fabulous private Pacific War Museum. Established by a local Guamian in 2008, it was called “the best damn leatherneck museum in a 12,000 mile radius.” And we will vouch for that.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Dad at the entrance to the Pacific War Museum (Courtesy of the Author)

One wing features the war from the Japanese perspective, through captioned photographs and artifacts. We saw a sword similar to the one Dad received from the Commander of the garrison at HaHa Jima and an 1816 Spencer bayonet used in the war by Japanese troops- it was purchased from the U.S. as Civil War surplus before 1860. There was a fascinating display on Sergeant Yokoi, the last Japanese soldier to emerge from the hills of Guam after the war. Living in a cave, emerging at night to fish and forage, he was discovered by accident on 25 January 1972 and chased dozens of miles before he was captured and convinced the war was really over. He became a Japanese hero for his pride and tenacity.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Diagram of Sgt Yokoi’s cave (Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

LB-23 Japanese used U.S. 1816 Spencer bayonet (Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

Japanese Imperial Army officer’s sword (Courtesy of the Author)

The best-of-the-best was a map of the Pacific with the major battle sites marked. Now, with the perspective of visiting many of the sites over the past 10 days and attending lectures, Dad’s narration each took on fascinating intimacy. Everyone kept asking questions and Dad gave an up-close, personal history of the war that transfixed us all. Here is part of the conversation:

https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0MG4Tcsm9f6Pw

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

One of the most profound discoveries of this trip for many of us has been the reduction of the war from endless statistics and massive numbers- 215,000 troops here, 6,000 killed there, 12,000 wounded here- into a personal, human framework.

A letter to Admiral Nimitz, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S Pacific Fleet, from a group of Guamian leaders after the American-led liberation that tied it all together.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

Marine giving food to a young child (Courtesy of the Author)

Marine giving food to a young child (Courtesy of the Author)

We heard Dad’s descriptions of the battery of five 5” guns on the Stevens he commanded in a five day constant barrage on the island and their force. Seeing one of the guns up close, and realizing there were five of them firing almost simultaneously, made one realize the intensity of the noise and power involved.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

One soldier’s description of the assault at Guam was overpowering and poignant beyond belief. I unfortunately did not capture all of it, but the full text can be found here,

https://books.google.com/books?id=AZP9T9wr690C&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=chonito+cliff+hell&source=bl&ots=I_vPerIFUS&sig=MNRTqKhqcWEJEe1zQAuiHVe4__E&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj0oILZ-8HaAhUq3IMKHfymBr0Q6AEwAHoECAAQKA#v=onepage&q=chonito%20cliff%20hell&f=false.

The hill described in the story abuts the museum.

Lastly, Dad pointed out to us some of the battle ribbons he earned in battle on the Stevens and the LST, which accompanied the battle stripes on his cap which he wore proudly during the trip:

(Courtesy of the Author)

Dad’s battle stripes on his cap earned during the war(Courtesy of the Author)

We paid our respects to the Guam Veteran’s Cemetery then were on to our next adventure.

The War in the Pacific National Historic Park provided another highlight of the trip.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

Japanese two man suicide torpedo submarine (Courtesy of the Author)

After viewing the Japanese two man suicide torpedo submarine, we entered the museum. When Dad told the Ranger behind the desk his role in liberating Guam in 1944 she, as a native Chomorran, came out from around the desk and gave him an enormous hug to thank him for liberating her people from the Japanese.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Dad and Ranger (Courtesy of the Author)

As great as that was it got better. When we emerged from a very powerful 30-minute documentary about the battle for Guam, the Ranger in charge of the museum, Rufus Haspalur, came over to Dad, told him he was in the park two days ago when Dad spoke to the group of 30 Navy sailors we encountered in that park, and was very moved by Dad’s stories and experiences. On behalf of the people of Guam, he said, he was presenting Dad with a medal commemorating the battle and celebrating Dad’s role in the liberation of the island. It was an incredibly moving speech and a very powerful moment for Dad- and for all of us being there with him as he received this recognition. Here is the video and a photo hopefully capture the moment.

https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0MG6XBubJtgHtS

(Courtesy of the Author)

Dad and Rufus Haspalur (Courtesy of the Author)

I emailed the pictures to Mr. Haspalur and this was his reply:

Happy Easter to your family and especially your Dad,

Thank you for your kind words. It is true that the people of Guam will never forgotten the Liberators. There is no ending of how the people of Guam were/are /will thankful and grateful for what your dad and others did for our people. They came here more than 73 years ago and free our dying and suffering Chamorros. We could not be here today if not because of them. 

Today, we look back in our history and can only wish the world will never repeat another world war. Too many innocent lives were lost for no reason. We will continue to promote peace here in Guam and welcome everyone to join us for the better world for our children.

Thank you for the pictures.

Sincerely,

Rufus

It was hard to leave that museum and its wonderful Rangers!!!!

This is a good juncture to finish Dad’s Navy story, in his words:

“On rotation, after two years, I was assigned as a Plankowner of LST 871, as its Executive Officer and Navigator, later rising to become its Commanding Officer. Some of the LST’s missions were carrying troops to and from the Philippines, Iwo Jima and other scenes of some of the most dramatic fighting of the War.

My LST was part of the first US Navy Task Group to enter the Nagasaki harbor after the bomb was dropped. What I saw was the immense destructive power of an atomic bomb. I experienced a profound sense of horror seeing the bodies of innocent civilians still floating in the harbor. Seventy three years later the vision is still with me.

Two months after Japan’s official surrender, LST 871 became the first Navy ship to land at HaHa Jima, a small island off the coast of Japan. As the senior US Navy officer present, I took several seamen ashore with me and accepted the surrender of the island and its garrison by the senior Japanese officer, accepting his sword, his pistol, and his saki cup. The Admiral Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War recently accepted that sword to be exhibited.

After assisting the successful maneuvering of the LST through an enormous typhoon between Nagasaki and the Philippines, and earning a Command at Sea Badge as a Senior Grade Lieutenant, I soon returned to civilian life in the spring of 1946.”

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

Back to our tour of Guam:

We went to the cove where Magellan first sailed into Guam and Spanish galleons returned every year. We viewed the small fort they built at the entrance to the harbor and marveled at their ability, with celestial navigation that Dad explained from his experience as the LST’s Navigator (and then Commanding Officer), to return annually to this small cove they made into their home-away-from-home.

Here Rowland and Warren share a windy overlook with Dad and we all marvel at the 17th Century cannons.

(Courtesy of the Author)

Ruins of the Spanish Fort(Courtesy of the Author)

A brief stop at a Sunday flea market, with the coconut throwing contest, loud music and local foods, gave us a sense of the rhythm of the island in 2018. The crabs were fresh and plentiful.

We returned to the hotel exhilarated and ready for our final banquet of the trip.

To say that it was hard to say goodbye to our new friends is an understatement. You always meet new and interesting people on a trip like this but this one was special. For me, it really was that proverbial trip-of-a-lifetime.

And for me, this was also the chance to experience one of the most formative periods of Dad’s life and see it through his eyes. It was history come alive in a powerful and dynamic way on the beaches and the waters where it all happened. I have always been a history buff, but this was history alive and vibrant.

How cool that he and I could have this experience together. And how amazing were so many people who showered him with love and hugs and a celebration of a life well-lived. Many of the people we met had a father or uncle or grandfather who served in the war and Dad became a very lovable and articulate spokesperson for his generation. And I think a surrogate for many. I have no doubt that we will all stay in touch and visit with each other- several conversations were already started about a reunion tour somewhere. And the museum is sending an oral historian to visit Dad soon to record his story. All amazingly wonderful.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

Enjoy Steve Fadem earlier post here.

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/07/24/day-2-march-17-2018-honolulu

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/08/21/day-3-march-1718-honolulu-to-saipan-via-guam

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/09/18/day-4-march-20-saipan

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/10/18/day-5-march-21-tinian

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/11/20/day-7-march-23-guam

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/12/25/day-8-march-24-iwo-jima